William Parker “Mayan Space Station” & “Painters Winter”

William Parker is truly a gift to the world and over the past 18 months I’ve connected even more with his work than ever before. Beyond his inimitable vision and leadership in music, he is a community figrehead and sage. There are not enough superlatives to describe the impact and influence has had on the people around him as well as countless artists, musicians, poets, etc. across the globe. Once again, we are the great benefactors of his countless gifts as he offers two new trio recordings, two new distant landscapes to find escape and inspiration.

Mayan Space Station is out there. Featuring Parker on bass, Gerald Cleaver on drums, and Ava Mendoza on guitar, this album is a straight hit of cosmic blues. Cleaver and Parker dance progressive rhythms, building a solid launchpad for Mendoza to soar. She is one of my favorite guitarists on the planet for a reason as she can take any passage of music, ruminate on any idea, then twist and sculpt it into her own sonic monument. It’s incredible and on Mayan Space Station she is at her anfractuous best. 

The intricate interplay between Parker’s fuel-soaked bass riffs and Cleaver’s creative, angular drumming is hypnotic. Cascading through organic wormholes as the trio channel the heart of Sun Ra’s sonic traveling, the trio generate a meditative zone where the catharsis of their music provides peace and solace. “Canyons of Light” is an oasis of freedom as all three spiral outwards, Parker’s bowed bass an underground spring that feeds everything on the surface. At the same time, Cleaver weaves intense interconnected layers, rising like ash from the volcano Mendoza builds with dizzying guitar explorations. It’s a major exclamation on an album full of them.

If Mayan Space Station is the rocketship, then the contemplative Painters Winter is the atmosphere keeping us all breathing and moving ahead. Joined by longtime friend and collaborator Daniel Carter on reeds, trumpet, and flute and Hamid Drake on drums. They are quite the dream team. From the jump on “Groove 77,” the trio slide into the pocket, fabricating bouncing rhythms and spacious melodies from the ground up. The title track gets into headier zones, Carter’s flute a flickering light in the sky while Parker’s melodic trombonium bops dance across Drake’s muted, hypnotic beat. Their connections are rock solid and the playing so tight that the music takes on a visual aspect, streaming vivid imagery into the sky.

William Parker is a force that keeps going. He’s released a lot of music in 2021, much of it essential and all of it worthwhile. Mayan Space Station and Painters Winter show two sides of his shapeshifting musical personality and each offers something exciting and new. Whether it’s time to chill out or lift off, Parker and his collaborators have it covered.

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